My husband and I just returned from our unit’s monthly training exercise weekend, which also served as our annual family weekend. As we pulled in and began unloading our gear, our 18 year old son came out to assist and ask questions about how things went. He sometimes goes with us unless he has to work. He hates missing and when he does, he always wants to hear our stories about what took place. You see, we’re a Family. I’m not talking about my husband, my son and myself. I’m talking about my unit.
I’m not former military but I know some who were. In fact, our unit is made up about 50% former military and non military. I have read a lot of books and seen my share of documentaries and movies that depict the loyalty, camaraderie and brotherhood that becomes such a large part of a soldiers life while serving and just as much afterwards. I also have family who have served so I have a pretty good idea about the depth of that relationship and the care and concern one can have for another who has shared those experiences and losses with you.
Now, our unit has never been to war, so I am sure it pales in comparison, but we are a family, nonetheless. Outside of our trainings, we spend time together or talk via phone, text, email or social media on an almost daily basis. And when we have trainings together, we sweat and bleed together. We know each other, in fact that is part of our unit’s vision statement. We ‘do work’ , but we also know each other. We spend time together, eat dinner at each other’s houses, we talk about work and what’s going on, outside of the unit activities, in each other’s lives. We know each other’s spouses and children.
This weekend’s training, as I stated earlier, was our family weekend, which means members could invite their spouses and children to come out with us. They are encouraged to observe or even participate to some capacity in the training exercises. This is their chance to see what we do and play an active part. We also incorporate some fun activities into the weekend for the kids. We have a group meal that is a kind of potluck style and roast marshmallows around a camp fire.
Star gazing, knot tying, scavenger hunts and a game of capture the light are staples of the weekend with a game of horse shoes or wiffle ball thrown in for good measure. This time around we all made pace counters or ranger beads and had some live fire pistol and long range rifle practice. All in all, it was a damn near perfect weekend. It was fun to hear the squeal and laughter of little girls catching rolly pollies and see the grin on a young boys face as he bites into a s’more while telling ghost stories around the campfire.
We also had the pleasure of swearing in a new recruit and patching in a newer member who had completed the requirements to earn that patch. It didn’t come easy. Trust me when I say, he earned it. We said a prayer, recited an oath and all clapped and hugged their necks, welcoming them into the family. Our newest recruit learned why we don’t leave our tents open in Texas and got his call sign in the process by waking the CO up in the middle of night to show him the scorpion that had just stung him. We did a first aid refresher and talked logistics and listened to some pretty exciting stories about past experiences from several members. Through out all of that, we got to know each other a little more.
The CO always asks new recruits what they want to get out of joining or why their interested in joining. All of their answers are usually pretty similar and not that different from my own. But I always add something to that conversation by telling them what I have gotten since I joined three years ago. I have learned so much but even more than that, I have made some of the very best friends I have ever had. My family has grown exponentially. I have the blessed assurance that if I need help, if I need a hand or if I am ever in trouble, I will have a group of brothers and sisters who will come and stand beside me. That’s family.